Beta
×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

How Far Should GPL Enforcement Go?

timothy posted more than 2 years ago | from the lo-unto-the-ends-of-the-earth dept.

GNU is Not Unix 432

itwbennett writes "The debate over enforcement of the GPL flared up again this week when Red Hat kernel developer Matthew Garrett wrote in a blog post that Sony is looking to rewrite BusyBox to sidestep the GPL. Which is a perfectly legal undertaking. But it raises the question: 'Is there social pressure within the Linux kernel community to not undertake GPL compliance action?' writes blogger Brian Proffitt. 'This may not be nefarious: maybe people just would rather not bother with enforcing compliance. Better, they may argue, to just let the violation go and get on with developing better code.'"

cancel ×

432 comments

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

Execution (5, Funny)

busyqth (2566075) | more than 2 years ago | (#38908665)

By hanging

Re:Execution (4, Funny)

qbast (1265706) | more than 2 years ago | (#38908745)

Trampling by herd of angry gnus. That's poetic justice.

Re:Execution (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38909017)

Trampled by a herd of angry Jews.

Even something noble, like the GPL, can be twisted by the Jew Lawyer into another route to extortion.

Re:Execution (0)

Bucky24 (1943328) | more than 2 years ago | (#38909105)

Even something noble, like the GPL, can be twisted by any Lawyer into another route to extortion.

ftfy (mostly to correct it, and partially to remove your attempt at trolling)

Re:Execution (5, Funny)

grcumb (781340) | more than 2 years ago | (#38909151)

Trampling by herd of angry gnus. That's poetic justice.

So... Gnus for Nerds, when they copy Stuff That Matters?

Re:Execution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38909253)

Well done, sir.

No corporate death penalty (2, Interesting)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | more than 2 years ago | (#38908827)

corporate death penalty

Re:Execution (0)

masternerdguy (2468142) | more than 2 years ago | (#38908951)

This is funny, but the entire point of open source is the sharing of ideas and implementations. GPL isn't designed to force others to share, but to facilitate sharing while letting the original authors get credited. You can't do that while hunting down anyone who you think is using your code unfairly.

Re:Execution (5, Informative)

turbidostato (878842) | more than 2 years ago | (#38909071)

"GPL isn't designed to force others to share"

Yes, it is. You can ask Richard M. Stallman if you don't believe me.

"but to facilitate sharing while letting the original authors get credited"

Yes, it is three letters too, but they are not G-P-L. The three letters you are looking for are B-S-D. Seriously: you described the BSD license, not the GPL.

Re:Execution (2, Interesting)

bheading (467684) | more than 2 years ago | (#38909375)

No, the GPL does not force others to share.

You have a simple choice, which these guys are now attempting to execute - don't use GPL software, write your own.

If they think that they can produce software which is as capable as busybox is, and if they think they can attract OSS developers to contribute to it for free while seeing their copyrighted work locked away, more power to their elbow.

I really doubt that they'll be able to do it but it would be interesting to be proven wrong.

Re:Execution (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38909147)

Funny as it may be, you are dead wrong. Judging from the other posts you made, maybe you should change your name to mastershillguy?

the entire point of open source is the sharing of ideas and implementations

Yes...

GPL isn't designed to force others to share

No, it is. As per the letter of the License, any failure to comply with the license (i.e. failing to "share" source code) is met with immediate termination of the license.

but to facilitate sharing while letting the original authors get credited

You must be confusing the GPL with the BSD attribution clause.

Re:Execution (1)

poetmatt (793785) | more than 2 years ago | (#38909293)

The only time you can't force the sharing of ideas is under GPLv2. Funny how GPLv3 got all the negative press, huh.

Re:Execution (3)

w.hamra1987 (1193987) | more than 2 years ago | (#38909173)

is there any reason why Sony cant use the program while conforming to GPL? they can include it in their systems, do mention that it's GPL'ed, link to its source code, and put proper attribution. or are they too smug to mention they borrowed code from elsewhere?

execution would be the fairest thing when dealing with such case... especially when we consider the company we're dealing with here, who'll be more than happy to sue anyone for the silliest of reasons

Re:Execution (1)

Tubal-Cain (1289912) | more than 2 years ago | (#38909387)

A hung program doesn't execute properly.

As far as everyone else (5, Insightful)

inode_buddha (576844) | more than 2 years ago | (#38908721)

I think GPL enforcement sould go just as far as everyone else. It should go as far as copyright law allows and as far as the copyright lobby goes.

Re:As far as everyone else (2)

Daniel Phillips (238627) | more than 2 years ago | (#38908969)

Without cheating, without being oppressive and without being a force for evil. Which is the case today, in everybody's opinion but a few shills with an agenda, usually in the form of a paycheck.

Anyway, I encourage Sony to fork Busybox. They will likely be able to make some improvements, however over the long run their fork will likely degenerate to the same quality as their typical software efforts, which to be honest, I am not much impressed with. When they get tired of that work and expense, and their new homemade bugs, they will go back to the real thing and be happy about it. In the meantime, perhaps they will stumble upon some good ideas suitable for rolling back into the Busybox tree.

Re:As far as everyone else (1)

turgid (580780) | more than 2 years ago | (#38909231)

A fork is not a rewrite.

If Sony want to have their cake and eat it, they are free to develop their own busybox-like suite of tools, on their own dime, and they can probably cannibalise some BSD code to get off to a flying start.

It's been a long time since I had time to browse any of the code repositories out there, but last time I looked, the BSD people (Free, Net, Open, ...) all had their own BSD-licensed unixy command-line tools.

Goodness, me, unless I'm mistaken, that stuff's been about for longer than GNU. (My beard is getting grey so forgive me if I'm rambling inanely).

Heck, if you want "real unix" tools, Sun released the official source under the CDDL a few years back.

OK, I know busybox is a very small reimplementation, but as I tried to point out first, it's enough to get Sony off to a flying start...

Re:as far as copyright law allows (4, Insightful)

TaoPhoenix (980487) | more than 2 years ago | (#38908977)

I second this.

"Hi there. Nice GPL copyright-backed code you got there, that you're violating the license on. It would be a shame if you had to pay $375,000 per Copyrighted Work, aka each file in the 50,000 file package. The Choice Is Yours."

Come on guys, if they're going to abuse copyright law, abuse it back, preferably with a big gun case that sets precedent. "No, you don't get to "withdraw your case. You get to pay me X BILLION dollars! Or - your choice - you can go fix it in Congress so that copyright damages are back down to $20 per work, like it should be."

Re:as far as copyright law allows (0)

masternerdguy (2468142) | more than 2 years ago | (#38909019)

Sorry, but no. Treat the industry as you want to be treated.

Re:as far as copyright law allows (1)

Yvanhoe (564877) | more than 2 years ago | (#38909085)

Self defense is so over-rated....

Re:as far as copyright law allows (1)

masternerdguy (2468142) | more than 2 years ago | (#38909101)

Self defense by doing exactly what you criticize is moronic. It's the we need nukes because they have them mentality.

Re:as far as copyright law allows (1)

ifiwereasculptor (1870574) | more than 2 years ago | (#38909333)

GPL - stuff must remain free for everyone to use, modify and distribute
Typical copyright - stuff must remain mine and everyone has to pay me and agree to be subject to my whims to see or use even part of it

Oversimplification, of course, but the point is that they are not both "nukes", because they aren't the same thing at all, just use a the same legal framework for completely different results.

Re:as far as copyright law allows (4, Insightful)

LateArthurDent (1403947) | more than 2 years ago | (#38909467)

Self defense by doing exactly what you criticize is moronic. It's the we need nukes because they have them mentality.

What's wrong with that mentality? MAD works and is, in fact, the only thing that does.

Re:as far as copyright law allows (3, Informative)

Bucky24 (1943328) | more than 2 years ago | (#38909149)

Sorry, but no. Treat the industry as you want to be treated.

Ya know, the golden rule is a nice lesson we learned in grade school, but in the real world, if you treat others as you'd like to be treated, you're either treating them like dirt, or you're treating them well, and they walk all over you. It would work if everyone wasn't a sociopath and actually did treat people how they wanted to be treated, but there are too many people willing to take advantage.

Re:as far as copyright law allows (1)

Migraineman (632203) | more than 2 years ago | (#38909455)

Agreed. "Treat others as you want to be treated." That's a lovely idealistic and academic notion. It's also one that requires everyone in the society to accept. One act of douchbaggery will lead to a cascade failure of this construct.

My folks tried to take this social high-road back in the 70s. They were treated like doormats, until they couldn't take any more and had to defend themselves from the hordes of predatory-types.

Re:as far as copyright law allows (1)

TFAFalcon (1839122) | more than 2 years ago | (#38909301)

If I was selling another person's software without permission then I think they would have every right to sue me for every penny I owned.

Re:As far as everyone else (3, Interesting)

stephanruby (542433) | more than 2 years ago | (#38909397)

Except that even copyright law is being treated differently in different countries.

In Germany for instance, a few court rulings set the precedent that in order for German developers to maintain their rights under copyright, they must actively defend those rights (so not surprisingly, German open source developers are doing just now right now and they're currently contacting/suing everybody who are using their code but not complying with their license).

And in places like Tawain, Chinese manufacturers are not even paying lip service to open source (even if providing the sources to their modifications wouldn't be difficult at all). So they're not getting sued at all, unless they have offices in the US, because it's far easier to sue in the US than it is in Tawain.

Slashdot double standards (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38908725)

Slashdot on piracy: "Abolish all copyrights! Copying isn't theft! Everyone is entitled to everything!"
Slashdot on the GPL: "Gee whiz, the GPL copyright license protects this code. Down with leeching violators! Protect against GPL theft!"

Re:Slashdot double standards (-1)

bonch (38532) | more than 2 years ago | (#38908757)

I get what point you're trying to make, and I think there is validity in addressing double standards having to do with copyright enforcement, but painting all of Slashdot with one brush only makes people dismiss your position.

Re:Slashdot double standards (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38909123)

I hear the no overlap argument all the time. When 99% of the posts are pro-piracy and 99% of the posts are anti-GPL violation, one should start to suspect that that argument is 99% bullshit.

Re:Slashdot double standards (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38908779)

Have you ever once considered that not everyone on Slashdot is the same? While you wrote your flaimbait-ridden comment, did you consider the fact that some people could also believe that copyright should cease to exist, but while it does exist, the GPL could be useful?

I doubt it.

Re:Slashdot double standards (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38908889)

Your mom on niggers: "God I love Nigger Cock!"

Your mom on cock: "God I love Nigger Cock!"

Re:Slashdot double standards (-1)

tepples (727027) | more than 2 years ago | (#38908895)

Without copyright in computer programs, it would become legal to disassemble binary-only programs, write detailed commentary, and distribute such heavily commented disassemblies. Anybody with enough time could convert a binary-only program to free software in this way.

Re:Slashdot double standards (5, Funny)

busyqth (2566075) | more than 2 years ago | (#38909005)

Indeed. The only thing that has stopped me from producing such a heavily commented disassembly of Microsoft Office is that it is sadly illegal.

Re:Slashdot double standards (1)

Jorl17 (1716772) | more than 2 years ago | (#38908955)

The thing is that most copyright stuff involves getting money out of that project, while the GPL stuff might also involve money, just the other way around.

Re:Slashdot double standards (4, Insightful)

Dahamma (304068) | more than 2 years ago | (#38909055)

Never understood why people thought getting money for your work was a bad idea...

Re:Slashdot double standards (1)

Jorl17 (1716772) | more than 2 years ago | (#38909421)

I did not deny that at all. Whaat I am saying is that these are not "double-standards". When copyright is brought up and bashed, it's because a company wants to make (usually too much) money from it. When GPL comes up it's because...a company wants to make money abusing GPL...or something similar.

Re:Slashdot double standards (5, Insightful)

ad454 (325846) | more than 2 years ago | (#38908981)

There is a huge difference between copyright enforcement against individuals in the context of personal use, and organizations in the context of earning signifigant revenue.

Most people including those on Slashdot, do not think it is reasonable to sell a pirated DVD movie on a street corner for profit, but consider it okay to download that same movie for media shifting for personal viewing.

Sony should be applauded for making their own BusyBox alternative, rather than violate the GPL. Hopefully it will be released as opensource with a different licence, for those that want an alternative choice. Adding more choice is a good thing!

Re:Slashdot double standards (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38909131)

Hypocrites.

Oh for fucks sake, what a dumb question (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38908749)

As far as the copyright holder feels is required to stop violations.

Right done, next story

I'm not sure I understand (5, Interesting)

PCM2 (4486) | more than 2 years ago | (#38908761)

I confess I only skimmed TFA -- this is Slashdot, after all.

But I'm not sure I understand the argument that is being made here. If Sony is really trying to "rewrite Busybox" -- which makes it sound like they're going to look at the Busybox code and write a new version that does the same thing in a different way -- then surely that's a derivative work of Busybox and it's a copyright violation.

If, on the other hand, Sony is planning to write a Busybox replacement from scratch -- what's wrong with that? Are companies not entitled to write code? How is that "violating licenses with impunity"?

If Sony is planning to do a clean-room re-engineering of Busybox -- what's wrong with that? Isn't that essentially what Linux kernel developers have done for all kinds of devices? Again, how is that "violating licenses with impunity"?

Sony wants to not use GPL-licensed code in its proprietary products. What could be more clear? Would you rather they used it without complying with the license?

Re:I'm not sure I understand (1)

bonch (38532) | more than 2 years ago | (#38908853)

But I'm not sure I understand the argument that is being made here. If Sony is really trying to "rewrite Busybox" -- which makes it sound like they're going to look at the Busybox code and write a new version that does the same thing in a different way -- then surely that's a derivative work of Busybox and it's a copyright violation.

Is that really considered a derivative work just because they can see the source? Genuinely curious here.

Re:I'm not sure I understand (1)

brainzach (2032950) | more than 2 years ago | (#38908933)

Is that really considered a derivative work just because they can see the source? Genuinely curious here.

If the Linux community hires some big fancy lawyers and bring the case to court, a judge will provide an answer to your question.

Re:I'm not sure I understand (1)

PCM2 (4486) | more than 2 years ago | (#38909033)

Is that really considered a derivative work just because they can see the source? Genuinely curious here.

It could be. As the poster below says, it kind of depends on who has the most lawyers. SCO argued that Linux violated SCO copyrights because its source code tarball contained similar-looking header files.

Re:I'm not sure I understand (5, Insightful)

Daniel Phillips (238627) | more than 2 years ago | (#38909061)

But I'm not sure I understand the argument that is being made here. If Sony is really trying to "rewrite Busybox" -- which makes it sound like they're going to look at the Busybox code and write a new version that does the same thing in a different way -- then surely that's a derivative work of Busybox and it's a copyright violation.

Is that really considered a derivative work just because they can see the source? Genuinely curious here.

It can be. That is why cloning a library under an incompatible license typically requires an expensive "clean room" engineering process. Of course, Sony holding to their well known high moral and ethical standards, would never think of playing fast and loose with this, would they? And of course we would never notice if they cut a few corners to save cost, would we?

Re:I'm not sure I understand (2)

EvanED (569694) | more than 2 years ago | (#38909435)

It can be. That is why cloning a library under an incompatible license typically requires an expensive "clean room" engineering process

"Requires" is a strong word. A well-documented clean room process provides a strong argument for why something isn't copied if they wound up in court, as well as a way for an organization and the people in it to be sure that they aren't inadvertently (or even, uh, vertently) copying. Thus it can make sense to do.

But there's no reason it's necessary.

Re:I'm not sure I understand (1)

Derekloffin (741455) | more than 2 years ago | (#38909077)

It's a good question. I personally don't know. My limited understanding of copyright protection is it protect not function, but expression. So copying the function of something isn't derivative. To protect function you have to get patent on it. However, it depends how close the new programmers are to the original code. For instance, if you hand a detective novel to a writer and say make me a story very similar to this one, even if he changed the names, places and such, if the general plot is the same, that could be considered a derivative work. But in that case, the plot itself is really an expression, not a function, so although that is very close, I think they are different situations.

Go to hell; here's a map. (5, Informative)

tepples (727027) | more than 2 years ago | (#38909111)

Is that really considered a derivative work just because they can see the source?

Proving an allegation of copying requires proving two elements: first, that the alleged infringer had at one time had access to the older work; and second, that there is a level of similarity between the two. "Access" can be as simple as having heard a song on the radio a decade ago (Bright Tunes Music v. Harrisongs Music).

Compaq decided to make lack of access clear when it reverse-engineered the IBM PC BIOS using a "clean room" technique. This involved having one team turn copyrighted code into descriptions of its (unprotected) functionality and a second team turn the descriptions into code, with all communications between the two teams carefully monitored. I've been told it might not be quite necessary to go that far, but in the business world, you'd often rather spend money on engineers than trial lawyers. In such a case, it's best to draw up a plan for "being able to tell IBM to go to hell, and having the federal judge draw them a map for exactly how to go there", as sigwinch put it a decade ago [slashdot.org] . (Here's such a map [mapq.st] .)

Re:Go to hell; here's a map. (1)

medv4380 (1604309) | more than 2 years ago | (#38909459)

That can't be right. That map puts me 60 miles away from Detroit.

Re:I'm not sure I understand (2)

turbidostato (878842) | more than 2 years ago | (#38909139)

"Is that really considered a derivative work just because they can see the source?"

Surely it is, at least for this judge: http://news.slashdot.org/story/12/01/26/0237246/non-copied-photo-is-ruled-copyright-infringement [slashdot.org]

The right question nowadays it "but should it be?"

Re:I'm not sure I understand (1)

dougmc (70836) | more than 2 years ago | (#38909171)

Is that really considered a derivative work just because they can see the source? Genuinely curious here.

That would be an issue for the courts to work out. I imagine that if it went to court, that argument would certainly be made.

And I expect that the authors of this Busybox clone would retort saying that they've never seen the source of Busybox (and it would be prudent for them to make sure they never have), and unless the Busybox folk could show that they had, that would be the end of it. (Unless there's a patent out there somewhere about making one executable that performs the function of lots of *nix tools, which would be another can of worms entirely.)

And even if the authors of this clone had seen Busybox code they might have a pretty good case as long as none of their code looks like the Busybox code. After all, Busybox doesn't really do anything that special.

Re:I'm not sure I understand (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38909377)

But I'm not sure I understand the argument that is being made here. If Sony is really trying to "rewrite Busybox" -- which makes it sound like they're going to look at the Busybox code and write a new version that does the same thing in a different way -- then surely that's a derivative work of Busybox and it's a copyright violation.

Is that really considered a derivative work just because they can see the source? Genuinely curious here.

Yes, at least under American Law. To not be a derivative work, the people doing the coding are not allowed to ever see the original code while working on the "clean" version. As soon as one sees the original code it is no longer clean.

Re:I'm not sure I understand (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38908875)

it doesn't need to be a clean room implementation.

gpl taint is a lie.

(tfa is actually about that they belive sony will get away with not providing kernel sources if they can get a busybox-like implementation that isn't busybox. frankly that sounds stupid and something that wouldn't fly for long)

*BSD (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 2 years ago | (#38909081)

If you can make a program with the same functionality as BusyBox, and you run it on top of the NetBSD kernel instead of Linux, where's the requirement to provide source code?

Re:I'm not sure I understand (1)

MBCook (132727) | more than 2 years ago | (#38908935)

They don't have to look at BusyBox, it's just a collection of standard utilities. Since they know what the utilities are supposed to do, they can make their own versions without having to look at the BusyBox code.

The real issue is what this look like. "We keep being accused of GPL infringement, and people are using this BusyBox thing as leverage, so if we replace it, they won't have leverage and can keep infringing without worry."

Now it's entirely possible Sony isn't doing this to let them get away with other infringement, but to make it so they don't have to worry about accidental infringement. But if you're the kind who likes the idea of using GPLed software to force other bits of the system open that are normally closed source, this looks like a sinister development.

Re:I'm not sure I understand (1)

PCM2 (4486) | more than 2 years ago | (#38908987)

The real issue is what this look like

But... dude. Surely you see my point here. It's Sony.

Re:I'm not sure I understand (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38908941)

>which makes it sound like they're going to look at the Busybox code and write a new version that does the same thing in a different way -- then surely that's a derivative work of Busybox and it's a copyright violation.

s/Busybox/Linux

Hypocrite.

Re:I'm not sure I understand (4, Insightful)

dougmc (70836) | more than 2 years ago | (#38909091)

If Sony is planning to do a clean-room re-engineering of Busybox -- what's wrong with that? Isn't that essentially what Linux kernel developers have done for all kinds of devices? Again, how is that "violating licenses with impunity"?

I'm with you.

If they really wanted to be fancy about it, they could do the same thing the BIOS cloners did -- have some people write up documentation on what Busybox does, and other people write the clone. But really, the first part is easy -- just decide which commands must be implemented and which flags, and let somebody write it. For bonus points, all people involved certify that they've never looked at the source of Busybox, or perhaps never explicitly used it at all.

If they do this (and it sounds like it's their plan) ... I don't see where there's any room to enforce the GPL at all, not with regard to this Busybox clone anyways. All they could do is try to be even more picky about other packages, perhaps trying to step up enforcement of Busybox usage (not a clone, not yet) now.

While I hate rooting for the bad guy, I think Sony has the right idea. (Though I'm sort of surprised that more embedded device makers haven't gone with one of the BSDs rather than Linux simply to avoid the GPL.)

Re:I'm not sure I understand (5, Informative)

c (8461) | more than 2 years ago | (#38909115)

> Sony wants to not use GPL-licensed code in its proprietary products.

Well, no. If you RTFA, it suggests Sony wants to use GPL-licensed code except for projects the license is actually enforced. They'll use the Linux kernel because the Linux kernel community doesn't bother with GPL enforcement. They don't want to use Busybox because the Busybox developers will sue them for license violations.

Of course, it's a bit of a risky strategy. Just because someone hasn't enforced their copyrights so far doesn't mean they still can't or won't. You'd think their own lawyers would raise a stink about it...

Re:I'm not sure I understand (3, Informative)

jaminJay (1198469) | more than 2 years ago | (#38909129)

According to TFA's comments, the Busybox replacement under discussion is Toybox, written by a former maintainer of Busybox. It cannot be clean room, whether or not that matters.

Re:I'm not sure I understand (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38909227)

If, on the other hand, Sony is planning to write a Busybox replacement from scratch -- what's wrong with that? Are companies not entitled to write code? How is that "violating licenses with impunity"?

If Sony is planning to do a clean-room re-engineering of Busybox -- what's wrong with that? Isn't that essentially what Linux kernel developers have done for all kinds of devices? Again, how is that "violating licenses with impunity"?

Sony wants to not use GPL-licensed code in its proprietary products. What could be more clear? Would you rather they used it without complying with the license?

The issue is the likelihood of Sony not doing a clean room rewrite, but simply taking Busybox, replacing all the copyright notices with their copyright notices and the simply treating "their" code as a parallel branch. The rules for clean room recreation are pretty well established in American law, but not so much in the rest of the world.

the argument (5, Informative)

chrb (1083577) | more than 2 years ago | (#38909229)

The argument that is being made in a nutshell:

Busybox copyright is enforced by the SFLC, which sues companies to get them to comply. When negotiating for compliance, they also request that the company in question comply with the GPL2 license on the Linux kernel. Now, for whatever stupid reasons, some companies don't want to release their kernel modifications for Android devices. So they think that by removing Busybox, the SFLC will no longer have a copyright claim that opens them to litigation which results in their releasing their kernel source. This reasoning is flawed, because there is another, much easier way to avoid Busybox litigation: put the source code on your web site. That's all it takes. They could keep their kernel sources, and just put up the Busybox source, and they would achieve the same thing.

The other argument being made by one developer is that enforcement action is pointless, because he hasn't seen any Busybox source opened up from this route that was worth anything. Others disagree, saying there was some useful code, and that it's not just about Busybox - the Busybox enforcement actions have also resulted in kernel drivers being opened up.

So, the "outrage" here is the allegation that Busybox is being rewritten so that companies can violate the copyright of the Linux kernel without being sued by the SFLC.

Re:I'm not sure I understand (4, Informative)

Chemisor (97276) | more than 2 years ago | (#38909237)

You can read the actual complaint in the second link. It is not about any copyright violations of busybox code. He's whining about the fact that with a non-GPL busybox replacement he won't have an excuse to sue for Linux kernel GPL violations. Kernel developers are generally not inclined to sue anybody for not releasing the source code to kernel modifications, while busybox developers sue everybody in sight. If busybox is replaced, it would be more likely that device manufacturers who do not release sources for kernel modifications would be able to get away with it.

Re:I'm not sure I understand (1)

Fred Ferrigno (122319) | more than 2 years ago | (#38909285)

I don't think there's anything illegal about the project, but it seems explicitly designed to thwart the efforts of the Software Freedom Conservancy. The SFC technically only has authority to enforce the GPL when it comes to BusyBox, but when they find a BusyBox violation, they use that to pressure companies to come into compliance with other GPL software, namely the Linux kernel. The project author thinks that's a bad thing, preferring to allow "naive or defunct" companies make "mistakes" with non-BusyBox GPL software without worrying that the SFC might come after them.

Re:I'm not sure I understand (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38909463)

How can you possibly do a clean room reengineering of open source software? How would Sony prove that the coders have never seen Busybox code? Who would get access to their source to verify that it's not derivative of Busybox?

Depends on the subject I guess.. (0)

Kenja (541830) | more than 2 years ago | (#38908775)

If this was a story about software piracy or MP3/movie downloads then the answer would of course be that copyright is wrong and should be removed entirely. But since its about the GPL, I'm guessing we're pro copyright and it should be enforced to the fullest extent of the law.

Re:Depends on the subject I guess.. (2)

Lundse (1036754) | more than 2 years ago | (#38908869)

The GPL only exists to fix the insanity that is copyrighted code. Better not code was copyrighted, sure. But since can can be copyrighted, better as much of it as possible is held in common trust, to be shared and used among those who are willing to set their improvements free.

You do not have to be pro-copyright, to be pro-enforcement of the tool that is battling the ills of copyrighted code. When we decide that math was a stupid thing to try to legally magic-wand into products anyway, there will be no GPL to enforce.

Re:Depends on the subject I guess.. (1)

Dahamma (304068) | more than 2 years ago | (#38909137)

Actually, the GPL goes way beyond copyrighted code. Without copyright could basically follow the BSD license - you are free to use any code you see, but you aren't required to give back what you changed...

Re:Depends on the subject I guess.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38909303)

But since can can be copyrighted, better as much of it as possible is held in common trust, to be shared and used among those who are willing to set their improvements free.

Doesn't the public domain already address this issue? Let's say BusyBox was public domain; Sony grabs a copy, and uses a copy in their software, and doesn't release anything back because they don't have to - it's PD.

The original BusyBox code still exists, and is still available... so what's lost by simply putting it in the public domain?

Re:Depends on the subject I guess.. (1)

nzac (1822298) | more than 2 years ago | (#38909013)

We as the users, want copyright laws that favour users and maybe hurt bad companies.

Both GPL and resonable copyright enforcement benifit users/consumers.

Re:Depends on the subject I guess.. (1)

ddtracy (2565031) | more than 2 years ago | (#38909247)

There is a reason why GPL is called COPYLEFT. "The GNU General Public License, originally written by Richard Stallman, was the first copyleft license to see extensive use, and continues to dominate the licensing of copylefted software." -- Taken from wikipedia article on Copyleft.

"Copyleft is a play on the word copyright to describe the practice of using copyright law to offer the right to distribute copies and modified versions of a work and requiring that the same rights be preserved in modified versions of the work. In other words, copyleft is a general method for making a program (or other work) free (libre), and requiring all modified and extended versions of the program to be free as well." -- Taken from wikipedia article on Copyleft.

Re:Depends on the subject I guess.. (1)

Kenja (541830) | more than 2 years ago | (#38909441)

With copyright : You can release your code under GPL requiring people who use it to also release their code under the GPL.
Without copyright : You can release your code, but you have no way to enforce others to do the same.

You can call it what you like, but if you are against copyright you are against the GPL and should be using the BSD license.

Non sequitur? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38908857)

What exactly does Sony legitimately rewriting busybox have to do with GPL enforcement?

Yeah, they're rewriting it to sidestep the GPL, but so what? That's their prerogative.

The owners of the copyrighted code are the ones who have a stake in enforcing the GPL for their code. If they don't care enough to enforce it, that's their business and completely unrelated IMO to what Sony is doing.

Maybe the argument is that if so many people don't care – in general – to not enforce the GPL for their code, that what, interest is waning in the GPL in general?

I mean, if that's really the case, then why should Sony even bother to rewrite, when they can just violate, knowing that nobody cares enough to enforce. No doubt their lawyers think that's a slippery slope, because we don't know if tomorrow everyone will change their mind.

Re:Non sequitur? (5, Informative)

larry bagina (561269) | more than 2 years ago | (#38909097)

short version: RTFA

long version: Most GPL copyright owners aren't aware, don't care, or don't have the time/legal training to enforce GPL violations of their code. The Busy Box guys actively enforce the GPL license on their code. If you violate the busy box GPL license, they will not re-license it to you unless you also stop violating the license on all the other GPL software that's being distributed. If they replace busy box, nobody will bother them about the other GPL violations.

Re:Non sequitur? (2)

exomondo (1725132) | more than 2 years ago | (#38909415)

What exactly does Sony legitimately rewriting busybox have to do with GPL enforcement?

Yeah, they're rewriting it to sidestep the GPL, but so what? That's their prerogative.

Correct, but the issue pointed out in the blog is not really with Busybox at all, it's that the SFC acts on behalf of the copyright owners of Busybox and can leverage violations of Busybox code to get companies to release kernel code that violates the GPL. If they aren't using Busybox then the SFC has no case against them because they aren't violating the license of code copyrighted by people represented by the SFC, so the blog post calls for kernel developers to contact the SFC for representation so violations can still be pursued.

So basically... (3, Insightful)

Millennium (2451) | more than 2 years ago | (#38908871)

It seems to me as though this is less about BusyBox per se, and more about enabling companies to steal code from other GPL'd projects without having to worry about the threat of the BusyBox folks calling them out on their wrongdoing.

Forgive me if I can't think of any word other than "scum" at the moment.

Re:So basically... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38908985)

You tell 'em good, Emperor Aspergers!

Waste of time (1)

chrb (1083577) | more than 2 years ago | (#38908901)

You can spend months trying to rewrite busybox, or you can just put the source code on your web site. It's not that hard. In fact, Sony already do it. [sony.com] GPL Compliance: put the source on your web site. That's all it takes. It isn't expensive or difficult.

Re:Waste of time (1)

WarJolt (990309) | more than 2 years ago | (#38909023)

Depends on the GPL version though. the anti-tivoization clause of GPLv3 makes compliance more difficult. Some organizations ban GPLv3 all together.

Busybox is GPLv2, which no one should complain about that.

LGPL (1)

eexaa (1252378) | more than 2 years ago | (#38908997)

I always thought that LGPL was created for this kind of stuff. I guess that if sony contacted busybox authors in a nice manner and if it was all for some good thing (bash-scripted gadgets!), relicencing would be fast&easy option.

Re:LGPL (1)

slimjim8094 (941042) | more than 2 years ago | (#38909185)

LGPL is a good fit for this (although it's really more for libraries). However, the busybox folks seem to be quite happy about being "that piece of software that nails everybody that tries to violate the GPL", so they may not be interested in relicensing.

Why not rewrite BusyBox starting from BSD? (4, Interesting)

Animats (122034) | more than 2 years ago | (#38909009)

BusyBox is just some standard UNIX utilities in one executable. BSD has all the necessary code. The BSD license doesn't require source redistribution. Putting together a BusyBox replacement shouldn't be a big deal.

Re:Why not rewrite BusyBox starting from BSD? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38909073)

Isn't FreeBSD's /rescue basically a BusyBox? All of those utilities are hardlinked. Shouldn't be hard to add more BSD utilities to it.

Passover lamb (-1, Troll)

HomelessInLaJolla (1026842) | more than 2 years ago | (#38909057)

Why is the passover lamb roasted whole with all internal organs inside? To sear the prints of the ribs to the inside of the leather. Why do you eat as if in flight? To hide the evidence because you sold the Egyptian a fake lambskin coat. Why don't you kill Isaac? Because he's supposed to scream and press those ribs in while being roasted. What's the difference between the major prophets and the minor prophets? The minor prophets only had some of the markings and didn't have the coat. The major prophets carried the coat. How much is the coat worth? You tell me.

I have your passover coat right here, buddy. I made fast. It's mine. Along with all the rest. [slashdot.org]

Re:Passover lamb (2)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 2 years ago | (#38909179)

Go take your medicine. You need it.

Re:Passover lamb (1)

JustNiz (692889) | more than 2 years ago | (#38909319)

uhhh...what?

Wrong title (1)

billcopc (196330) | more than 2 years ago | (#38909069)

The question should have been: How Far Should Sony Hate Go ?

Why is the GPL preventing Sony from using BusyBox as is ? The source code is already available, so if they feel the burning need to make changes, they can simply post patches on the web. Am I misinterpreting the GPL here ?

Why would rewriting BusyBox be considered cheaper/easier than complying with the GPL ?

Re:Wrong title (1)

jcfandino (2196932) | more than 2 years ago | (#38909431)

The original wiki tries to explain your question, but I still believe it would be better just to comply with the license:
From the FAQ

Q. Simply providing the source, as the licence requires, would avoid litigation. Isn't that easier than re-writing busybox?
A. It is true that providing the source would avoid litigation. In most cases, this *is* easier than re-writing busybox. However, in some cases - especially when dealing with a naive or defunct supplier, it can be difficult or impossible to find the 'correct' source for busybox. It would be better not to get into a situation where the lack of correct source from a 3rd party supplier resulted in extreme remedies being required. This project aims to make a useful alternative to busybox which completely eliminates any possibility of infringement, wrongdoing, and risk of litigation for this particular piece of software.
Q. Isn't this a lot of work to avoid a relatively small effort (publishing the source to busybox)?
A. It will be some work, but it will likely only have to be done once, and the burden and/or cost of the work can be distributed throughout the industry. The cost to a single company to support this project is very small in comparison to the legal liability and costs should some problem occur with busybox compliance.
Q. Is this being done to prevent the SFC from asking for the source to the Linux kernel?
A. No, although it would have that effect. As part of their request to remedy a busybox GPL violation, the SFC does ask for source code unrelated to busybox. Personally, I believe this is improper. However, my main reason for proposing this project is to avoid having the SFC gain review authority over unrelated products produced by a company. The larger the set of Linux-based products that are produced by a company, the greater exposure there is for a possible mistake, and the greater potential costs that would incur in the event of litigation and/or settlement.
Q. Wouldn't it be morally better to help companies fulfill their GPL obligations, than tohave them avoid GPL software?
A. There are multiple people who provide consulting services to help people fulfill their GPL obligations. This is a good thing and it should be encouraged. Helping companies avoid infringing the license of software they use is good. Also good is providing software for companies that helps them avoid legal entanglements at all. Arguments beyond this get into BSD vs. GPL license wars, which I don't think are productive to engage in here.

Re:Wrong title (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38909443)

It's standard emotional blackmail from large corporations. It goes like this:

1. Popularity = success.
2. Our marketing budget can make your (software/music/movie/TV show) popular.
3. If you want us to help you have to give us something.
4. What we want is an unlimited exclusive license to use your work in any way we please.

This is practically identical to the Faustian pact the same companies make with artists. The threat to rewrite busybox (or whatever) is just leverage. The thing to remember is that 1. is a flawed concept, and that people who don't follow the GPL by definition contribute nothing of value to open source software, so they are quite welcome to fuck right off and rewrite busybox, if that's what they want.

About. (0)

M0j0_j0j0 (1250800) | more than 2 years ago | (#38909095)

GPL is a fairy tale. the fact that it exists is one thing, enforcing it is a completely different story, but it's a beautiful concept.

The GPL as a political project (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38909117)

For several hundred years, and probably before then, there has been a struggle between individuals who strive for the possibility of social segregation and the perpetuation of (their) wealth, and individuals who strive for, effectively, a vision of communal merging of humankind. The former represented by a collection of mythologies related to social darwinism, self-sufficiency, republicanism, individual property rights and free will, and the latter represented by a collection of mythologies related to equality, communalism, various forms of group or shared property, determinism and removal of all mental barriers that distinguish between groups of people (either on a national/racial or international/global/humankind basis).

Ideologies relating to both of these have been pervasive through the world and there are untold millions who lean in either direction. It's no surprise that you find plenty of people who sympathise either way.

It's also no coincidence that the terminology chosen was specifically "CopyLeft", representing effectively and in principle shared and communal property, as an alternative to "CopyRight", effectively individual, withheld and segregated property.

Consider the fact that if all property, assets and reality was virtual, and we lived in a completely software-engineered world (a la The Matrix), a world governed by GPL v3 / lack of copyrights would be one where all property would be communal. This because the integration and interoperability of software would eventually force through a completely communal state, and because 'private' property could be raided and distributed at will.

GPL v2 is an intermediary step, where communal property is effectively a voluntary or accidental movement.

This is also why there won't ever be a GPL version beyond 3. 3 is the end point. 2 is a philosophical difference. But the goal was obviously always 3, because if you ever develop 3, then it's clear that you have been intending to do so from the very beginning.

This is also why GPL enforcement is a contentious issue. There is a perception effectively of power balance, where "power creates counterpower". The more the FSF seeks to take strong action against GPL v3 violators, the more people _who are not philosophically completely sold on the idea of communal property_ will form a counter-power and avoid GPL v3. GPL v3 has seen limited uptake, most likely for this reason, because people instinctively avoid what is effectively a viral project to communalise all digital architecture. To pursue the highest profile cases would effectively force a philosophical end game at a legal and political level, which they most likely don't see as productive at this point.

Re:The GPL as a political project (1)

danbob999 (2490674) | more than 2 years ago | (#38909365)

Look, if you don't like the GPL, don't use it. Better : think of it as proprietary software, and don't mess with the source. At this point, you will see that there is no more political project in a GPL software than in Windows, OS X, or any other proprietary software you are using.
Don't like GPLv3? GPLv2 is still there and you can still use it.
The world is never going to be governed by the GPL.
Bill Gates probably gives Windows for free to a friend or two. GPL developers give away their software to their thousand of friends accepting the license. But no one if forcing you to use either.

Re:The GPL as a political project (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38909417)

A little bit... defensive there?

There's nothing in what I wrote that someone with half a brain can't see.

Stupid question (4, Insightful)

slimjim8094 (941042) | more than 2 years ago | (#38909167)

The implication is clearly that we (as a community) shouldn't discourage people from using OSS code, or they'd start rewriting it to "get around" it.

That's the entire argument for the GPL. Basically, if some simple conditions aren't met, you don't get to take advantage of all the work that's been put into it. The idea being that you'd rather they not use your code at all if they're going to be dicks about it.

Sony, for reasons I don't quite understand but are entirely up to them, seems unhappy about putting the publicly-available-and-not-competitively-relevant source code on their website. More power to them, but the tradeoff is spending a bunch of time rewriting software that already exists and works fine. More power to them.

When I license my code under the GPL, I realize that the odds of its reuse are somewhat smaller. But that's fine, since I'd rather that somebody saving time by building off my work makes their source available (to me, and everybody else). If they don't want to do that, I don't want to save them the trouble of having to write it themselves.

The more interesting story here is that Sony's got it in its head that it'll be cheaper to rewrite Busybox than continue to have links to it. Not sure how they figured it.

Re:Stupid question (2)

LordLucless (582312) | more than 2 years ago | (#38909297)

Sony, for reasons I don't quite understand but are entirely up to them, seems unhappy about putting the publicly-available-and-not-competitively-relevant source code on their website

Probably because they don't want the bad press of an open source group claiming that Sony needs to open source all their source code if there's even one bit of GPL code sitting on the same media.

I know that's not what the GPL says, but it hasn't stopped certain companies (*cough* MySQL AB *cough*) from chasing after people waving that interpretation. After being in a company that was stung by MySQL, I'd give the same advice to anyone I talked to as well. Don't use GPL code unless you're willing to either:
a) Open source everything you write
b) Go to court to defend your interpretation of the GPL, because there's some real dicks out there (ab)using it.

Re:Stupid question (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38909401)

> The more interesting story here is that Sony's got it in its head that it'll be cheaper to rewrite Busybox than continue to have links to it. Not sure how they figured it.

Lawyer accounting. If Sony is forced to give away its proprietary source code, all millions of lines of it, because of one GPL program, it's far, far cheaper for them to rewrite it. It doesn't need to have all the bells and whistles of the GPL'ed version - it only has to do enough to make it functional for their boxes, and for whoever else wants to participate in its creation (under a saner OSS license).

One or two people could knock it off in a few months (a few hundred K$, rather than risk tens or hundreds of millions in damages from having to give away their secrets). And if they get enough people who are disgruntled at the increasingly paranoid and doctrinaire GPLs, that's an even bigger win.

There's a reason why the Apache codebase is so darn popular - it's basically a "here's some nice code; we like it, you do what you want with it, and it would nice if you gave something back in return, but we won't be dicks about it". And you know what? Many contributors do give back willingly, though Apache has its own issues with doctrine of other sorts, making contributions somewhat difficult.

BSD (1)

Bitsy Boffin (110334) | more than 2 years ago | (#38909191)

DRTFA, but if they are advocating not enforcing the GPL and just developing instead - why don't they just advocate using a BSD derived licence?

In other words, if you have chosen to use GPL for your code, then you must have done so because you want people to abide by those conditions, and so you must want to enforce them.

If you don't, then don't use GPL.

If you selectively enforce GPL, then it just weakens enforcement.

It's not Sony's project! (4, Informative)

ahecht (567934) | more than 2 years ago | (#38909193)

Once again, Slashdot links to a blog instead of the original source. The linked blog gets its evidence from a wiki page at http://www.elinux.org/Busybox_replacement_project [elinux.org]

This page has a Q&A which clearly states that it is not a Sony project:

        Q. Tim Bird, the proposer of this project, works for Sony. Is this a Sony project?
        A. No. Although Tim is employed by Sony, he spends a portion of his employed time working on behalf of the embedded industry to improve Linux and encourage GPL compliance. As of February 2, 2012, Sony has not endorsed or agreed to support this project. This wiki page is for gathering information and project description information, to present to various companies to solicit support and resources for the project.

        Q. Can Tim's creation of this proposal be used to infer anything about Sony's compliance record, future compliance intent, or other business practices?
        A. Tim has only recently informed his management about this proposal, and Sony has not yet (as of 2/2/12) agreed to support it. So, "no, not really". Sony has a good compliance record, and has strong compliance policies in place. It has never been contacted by the SFC and has no expectation of being contacted by the SFC about any license violation of GPL software. Tim is doing this as part of his (paid for by Sony) role in the industry to address issues which inhibit the adoption of Linux in consumer electronics.

please stop posting stuff by Proffitt (2)

nadaou (535365) | more than 2 years ago | (#38909355)

Proffitt is a financially motivated troll, raking up the mud to get page hits. Please stop posting his blog posts, they don't help improve our lives or our software.

thank you

Again? (1)

Alex Belits (437) | more than 2 years ago | (#38909461)

Some guy's speculation and Brian Proffitt's anti-Linux propaganda again?

Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>